Archive for November, 2006

I'm a weiner

November 30, 2006

nano 2006 badge The novel isn’t done. Well, the month isn’t over until midnight tonight, and I haven’t hit “The End” yet but am aiming to do so sometime today. But I crossed the finish line from the National Novel Writing Month perspective last night when I exceeded 50,000 words written in November. w00t!
It only took my two nanos and just over a year to write the entire first draft of For You, The Stars and I did it without ever looking back or re-reading, so I have no doubt there are continuity problems, crutch words, hemming and hawing, rambling, extaneous scenes, too many characters, pointless digressions, and so on.
I expect I will take a little vacation from this story in December and then in the new year actually read the novel myself for the first time. After that I expect to embark on a revision process. I’ll reorganize the chapters, fix the timeline issues, probably reduce the number of characters and possibly combine some. I may also have to write some new material. Who knows?
If I can get a coherent second draft written, ideally by the early spring of next year, then that’s when I’ll send it around to trusted friends and colleagues for their feedback. If that works, I’ll do a third revision and then the goal would be to send that out to a few agents and editors, possibly sometime next year.
We’ll see. Right now I’m just glad to have the final page in sight.

Hammers vs. saws

November 29, 2006

Over at Juxtaprose (just added to our blogroll), Jay Fienberg recently wrote about the danger of making a fetish of any one particular tool in your toolkit:

But, no matter how magical a saw, it’s not so great for the people who need to drive nails. And, it’s not like hammers work and saws don’t – they

IAI website redesign documents

November 28, 2006

I wrote a little blurb for the IAI Newsletter this month introducing the information architecture deliverables we’re using to guide the relaunch of the Institute website:

We’ve all heard the cop out about the cobbler’s children having the worst shoes. Most of us have probably made that excuse about our own neglected personal websites as we spend all our time working for clients or doing paying work. But everyone agrees that the website for the IA Institute needs to be exemplary. It should exhibit solid IA fundamentals, a great user experience, and seamless usability.
We all know that the current site falls short of these targets in several respects. There has been a site redesign project underway as long as I’ve been a member of the Institute. When I joined the board of directors this fall I expressed some interest in the progress of the website relaunch and was rewarded with the role of IT/Web director. I began reviewing the documents associated with the redesign project and was impressed by the depth and thoroughness of the process and deliverables. I suppose that shouldn’t have surprised me, given the core capabilities of so many of our members. (The site relaunch, just like the original site, relies entirely on the volunteer efforts of our members.)
So, in the interests of transparency and as a way of sharing with our stakeholders some insight into the redesign process, we’re including a link to our IA concept documents for the site redesign in this newsletter (and we plan to continue posting our documentation as the project continues to give our membership some visibility into the progress we’re making.)
View the concept map on the IAI website.
Note that these are final deliverables and we are not circulating them to seek amendments or suggestions. The project is well on its way based on these IA documents. We are close to selecting a final design approach and volunteers are busily implementing some of the new technical features and grooming the old site content.
In fact, we are seeking a volunteer to help review and revise the content in the Education section of the site, so if you are interested, please contact Melissa Weaver at volunteer AT iainstitute DOT org to volunteer.
Christian Crumlish,
IAI Board of Directors
Information Technology/Web

The deliverable includes some conceptual maps, some use cases, a navigation map and a set of wireframes. Hat’s off to Wolf Noeding, who created the documents based on research, surveys, and input from the members and board of the Institute.

Polar Bear the third out now

November 27, 2006

Congratulations to Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville on the release of the third edition of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web!
At a time when people who do information architecture (please don’t call them information architects!) are having yet another one of their many identity crises, questioning the value or the future of their chosen discipline, it’s nice to see the classic Polar Bear book chugging along and updated for the post-millennial, post-dotcom-bust, post-Web 2.0 world.

Kid-friendly faceted navigation

November 24, 2006

Dan Brown, author of *Communicating Design* points us to this interesting example of a search interface for navigating a children’s library.

Selling information architecture

November 23, 2006

A recent discussion on the IA Institute mailing list revolved around selling the value of IA to executives. One reason why we address IA and other user experience concerns within the context of web strategy here at Extractable is because it helps communicate the value of the planning process in terms of aligning with business strategy and goals, something an executive can understand without having to keep up with the latest changes in Internet jargon (user interface design, content strategy, usability, information architecture, user experience, interaction design, customer experience, experience planning, and so on).

This led IAI board member Stacy Surla to point to an article by IAI board member Samantha Starmer on the topic Selling Information Architecture: Getting Executives to Say “Yes”. The whole article is worth reading, of course, but here are Samantha’s top five recommendations to sell IA:

  1. Show the problem (and how you can help fix it): This point seems obvious, but lots of people forget to do it. Instead they go on and on about why information architecture is a good thing….
  2. Benefit the bottom line: You won’t be able to define hard core ROI (return on investment) for every project, but it is important to employ the rigor to think about the benefits of IA or any user focused work from a financial perspective….
  3. Play the politics: Managing politics in an organization is often critical to getting any work accomplished successfully. You will want to figure out how the politics game is played in your organization and how you can enjoy playing it. In many ways, politics is simply thinking about the best ways to get along with different types of people. A few tips:
    1. Pay attention to organizational culture and how decisions are made.
    2. Pick the most important battles.
    3. Talk to the right people at the right time in the right order.
    4. Accept help.
    5. Listen, listen, listen – what you say will be a lot more valuable if you have made a sincere effort to understand other points of view.
  4. Don’t promise a silver bullet:</strong It is best to promise only what is realistic and under your control….
  5. Pay attention to style: Tailor your style, language and presentation towards the audience you are trying to persuade…. Some people want numbers and data and facts, others prefer verbatim quotes from users, while others respond best to inspirational big-picture vision. Think about who you most need to sell in each pitch and adapt accordingly. This may mean extra preparation, but considering your audience and their needs will be well worth it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Microsoft licensing the Office 2007 ('ribbon' etc.) interface

November 22, 2006

Via the IxDA list I noticed this item on the Jensen Harris’ An Office User Interface Blog explaining how application developers can license and implement the new Microsoft Office 2007 interface, “including the Ribbon, galleries, [and] the Mini Toolbar.”
Here are more details on the licensing process and the place where you actually go to download a license.
There is one fairly reasonable exception:

There’s only one limitation: if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can’t obtain the royalty-free license.

Stakeholder mapping

November 21, 2006

On the IA Institute mailing list Patrick Walsh recently asked, “Is Stakeholder Analysis/Mapping a commonly used tool by IAs? It helps to identify all relevant stakeholders at the start of a project and can help ensure that they do not get overlooked.” He also pointed to a 2004 article in Boxes and Arrows by Jonathan Boutelle called Understanding Organizational Stakeholders for Design Success.
As long as I’ve been doing IA and related work I’ve understood stakeholder *interviews*, at the very least, to be a cornerstone of the discovery process. I had just assumed this was par for the course. Isn’t this how everyone does it?
Often the challenge is getting beyond the obvious stakeholders and getting access to the external stakeholders. There are a number of techniques for doing this, some qualitative (surveys, focus groups, interviews) and some quantitative (traffic analysis), but often I find that we need to rely on internal people, such as customer-support representatives, as proxies for external stakeholders because they at least have direct contact with them and are aware of some of their most pressing concerns.

The interface of a cheeseburger

November 20, 2006

Via Scot Hacker’s foobar blog I landed on this interesting set of interface musings at Information Architects Japan, starting from the universal cheeseburger interface and meandering on through iPod and Zune.
I like the quotation Scot selected:

The cheeseburger has the easiest food interface one could think of. No forks, no knives, no spoons, no plates, no chopsticks. Like a sandwich, but softer and sweeter and above all: Standardized. No alarms and no surprises when eating a cheeseburger. Almost as simple as

Microsoft Buys Firefox!

November 18, 2006

What a surprise! Just a few weeks after launching the first update to Internet Explorer in years, Microsoft has announced that it has purchased Firefox from the Mozilla foundation. Bill Gates says that this is part of Microsoft’s plan to open source all of their software and move towards an MS Linux 2007 platform.